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Airing Pain 112: Measuring Pain, Reading the Brain

How pain’s subjectivity makes it difficult to measure, rewiring the brain, and new research that allows patients to visualise their pain

This edition is funded by the Plum Foundation.

In this edition of Airing Pain, returning contributor Mark Johnson, Director of the Centre for Pain Research at Leeds Beckett University, speaks to Paul about the experimental methods used in their lab to measure how pain is experienced. Professor Johnson emphasises the difficulty in communicating one’s pain, as it is entirely context driven and based on the experiences of the patient.

Paul then heads to Manchester University to speak to Professor of Neuro-Rheumatology Anthony Jones. Paul learns about the different techniques used to measure the alpha waves produced by the brain when pain occurs, how the anticipation of pain is as important as pain itself, and the difficulties that scientists encounter when trying to emulate these signals. We also hear about the brain’s ‘plasticity’; its ability to rewire connection based on sensory experience.

Anthony’s research team are developing a ‘smart neuro-therapies’ platform (which you can get involved in, see ‘More Information’ below), a way for patients to measure their brain’s alpha waves, which are important in controlling sensory experiences. The research could have significant implications in pain management. The team are employing a unique collaborative theatre piece, ‘Pain, the Brain and a Little Bit of Magic’ to help patients, healthcare professionals, and the public to understand these complex systems.

Issues covered in this programme include: Brain imaging, brain signals, communicating pain, electroencephalography, fibromyalgia, neuro-rheumatology, neuro-therapy, neuropathic pain, research, rewire the brain, sleep and trigeminal neuralgia.


  • Professor Mark Johnson, Professor of Pain and Analgesia and Director of the Centre for Pain Research, Leeds Beckett University
  • Professor Anthony Jones, Professor of Neuro-rheumatology at Manchester University, Human Pain Research Group Lead, creator of ‘Pain, the Brain, and a Little Bit of Magic’.

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